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Customer Review

6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not for beginners, 1 Nov. 2011
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This review is from: Essence of Shinto: Japan's Spiritual Heart (Hardcover)
Having heard of the Shinto 'religion', I wanted to find out what it was all about. After reading the other customer reviews which highly praise this book, I thought I couldn't go wrong, but this was not what I expected. First off, the book is almost solid text throughout. As I have never visited Japan to see a shrine and I have little knowledge of Japanese customs, having images would have helped me understand the 'essence' of Shinto a lot better. The book starts introducing a lot of (complex) Shinto ideas and the associated terminology, but I didn't feel that the terminology was well enough explained, and I often didn't understand the concepts. The book didn't really explain what Shinto traditions/ideologies are, instead dwelling on such topics as the precise way that you should hold energy in your stomach when meditating after a bath or the correct wording for inviting the spirit of Kami (all in Japanese, of course). I did not find this book a useful overview of Shinto, as I found it too in-depth for someone who has no knowledge of the subject. The most interesting parts were on Shinto history and the author's personal experiences. There is a lot of stuff about what to do when visiting a Shinto shrine, but as I do not live near any Japanese shrines, it's going to be hard work putting the concepts into practise. After reading this book, I am left with the impression that Shinto is simply the embodiment of the Japanese culture, and the two are pretty much inseparable. I don't think Shinto is a religion which can be learned - it's too embedded in the Japanese culture. Unless you are fluent in Japanese and are accustomed to visiting shrines, I'm not sure what you will be able to take from this book.
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